The President’s address (New Dawn & FrontPageAfrica, May 29, 2014) on the nation’s Economy is a must-read for its deeply-penetrating, down-to-earth analysis in simple language of our economy’s performance – positive and negative.
The Positive, although expressed by our economic planners in fancy, high-sounding, theoretical micro/macroeconomic parlance, with projected, above-averaged, positive growth rates and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) percentages, all confirmed and encouraged by such reputable, international economic/banking institutions as the World Bank, International Monetary Firm, African Development Bank, etc., but the prevailing, practical results of the economy’s poor performance are devastating, particularly, the continuing depreciation of our currency, the Liberian dollar, against our major, trading partners’, notably, the US dollar, with profound, negative impact on those of us, Liberians, the majority of the nation’s population, with low and no income.
For us, the high-point of the President’s analysis was or is her apparent rationalization of the poor performance of the nation’s economy, a performance with negative impact on the socio-economic lives of the nation’s majority. Indeed, the President’s declaration that “alone” and “on our own, we cannot do” those things that are necessary for and critical to our peace, prosperity and “the pursuit of happiness”. This condition – “alone” and “on our own” – the President says, is one of the sources and the causes of the negative performance of the nation’s economy. Specifically, the President says that officially “alone” and “on our own, in economic terms, we cannot”:
“Build all of our roads & streets
Pave all of our roads & streets
Build all of our schools, hospitals
(provide all of our socio-economic services, such as electricity, safe drinking water & sewer)
Secure our borders and meet all of our needs”.
In Response, we beg to disagree:
Firstly, while we admit that there is some truth, by definition, that as a developing nation, there is much that we could not have done and cannot do officially “alone” and “on our own”. However, given our special, favorable condition/relationship with and commitment by a wealthy, developed nation credited with the very founding, establishment and support of the Liberian nation, while “alone” and “on our own”, we could have and can:
Define, develop and craft priority, public policy, national development plan and implement such basic, fundamental, policy foundation, while officially “alone” and “on our own”, as the construction of all-weather transport/communications system nationwide, the premier, multiplier effect in national economic development, seeking, first, the kingdom of transport/communications and all others shall be added unto us. We could, because, officially “alone” and “on our own” since political and economic independence in 1847, we had been and are privileged to have and maintained “special-nation”, economic ties and support relationship, friendship and solidarity with and enjoyed socio-economic and political benefits, throughout the years, from one of the greatest, if not the greatest, most successful, economic and technologically-developed nation on earth, the United States of America.
Throughout these years, while we were officially “alone” and “on our own”, the United States provided Liberia with economic, political, humanitarian and military aid and support, including knowledge for technology transfer, in billions of US dollars. Therefore, we could have, at the very least, while, officially “alone” and “on our own, criss-crossed our small country with all-weather roads/highways in national, economic development. But we did not, although we knew and are aware that there was and is the critical, reasonable Need, and that we had the Knowledge – education, training & experience and the Resources – human and natural, to plan and implement this premier, multiplier development approach.
Secondly, officially and in fact, we had not and have not been “alone“ and “on our own”:
Indeed, we had and have not been “alone” and “on our own”, because our Partners-in-Progress, including our traditional, historic mentor, the United Sates and its USAID; United Kingdom (UK) and its associated, Aid agencies; the European Union (EU) and individual countries of Europe with their aid agencies; and the United Nation’s UNDP. Most of these countries have been with us through thick and thin throughout the years, with commitments to continue their contributions to our nation’s socio-economic and political development in billions of US dollars.
Our Partners-in-Progress now include developing, Third world Nations, such as the Republic of India, the People’s Republic of China, the Empire of Japan, etc. and institutions such as The African Development Bank, The World Bank and The International Monetary Fund, nations and institutions that pumped and continue to pump billions in US dollars into Liberia after our tragedy of the civil war.
Moreover, based on a press release by the Ministry of Finance, FrontpageAfrica reported that “total revenue collected in the eight (8) years since President Sirleaf took over amounts to US $2.716 billion . . .” Social, economic, political, military and humanitarian aid have increased, considerably, after the 14-year, civil tragedy. It is reasonable to believe and hope that development aid to Liberia will continue at a greater rate and volume than in the past; in fact, national development aid to Liberia has increased considerably. Therefore, at the very least, we could have prioritized and/or:
Built and paved of our roads & streets
Rebuild all of our schools, hospitals & clinics (destroyed by the war)
Provide all of our socio-economic services
Such as electricity, safe drinking water & sewer
Secure our borders and meet all of our needs
But, we did not because:
1. Political Organization – Unitary Structure of government
Although Article 1 of our nation’s Constitution provides that “all (political) power is inherent (resides) in the people (the citizens)”, Article 3 prescribes that “Liberia is a Unitary, sovereign state . . .” in which, according to Article 50, “Executive power shall be (and is) vested in the President who shall be (and is) head of state and government . . .”. Thus, according to this unitary doctrine enshrined in our constitution, political, economic and administrative power is vested in an imperial president, rigidly centralized in, controlled by and dispensed from the Executive Mansion, Monrovia, without the objective input of the overwhelming majority of the people, since 1847. Indeed, Monrovia had been and is Liberia.
2. Public/Private Dishonesty (corruption)
“Rampant corruption and abuse of power” was the signature tune of the military coup d’etat of April 12, 1980. Today, corruption is no longer rampant, but roaring. Elsewhere, we observed (Corruption, Inc.) that in the Liberian scheme of things socio-economic and political, public/private dishonesty (corruption) has become a potent force in Liberian society, such that many public officials, including the current President of the Nation, identified corruption, inevitably, as “Liberia’s public enemy No.1”, because of its incidence, with profound, negative impact, in and on the social, economic and political development of the Liberian nation.
Now, corruption has been developed, implemented and controlled by a corps of highly-educated and politically-connected MBAs, LLMs, PhDs placed in government, into a successful, thriving, big business, an industry, a criminal empire that may be likened to the Mafia. Indeed, Corruption has captured control of the corridors of state power and has become a major, dominant political force. As a matter of fact, this corps of politically-connected government officials, more often than not, have become the “giant” pillars of Liberian, political economy.
Corruption, Inc. is financed by our state policy of Salary/Wage Allowances; single-sourcing of costly contracts without public bidding for kick-backs; expensive renting by government agencies of Liberian-owned buildings “developed” by and under lease from foreigners for kick-backs; revenue-generating, state enterprises flagrantly ignore, refuse and disobey payments of earned income into state treasury with impunity, while MDs, Presidents build fabulous mansions and earn six-figure incomes; they make frequent, foreign trips at public expense; given scratch cards for a telephone service; transport, gasoline, generators, service and housing at public expense.
3. Dual Citizenship
This is a national phenomenon that needs careful, open, diligent examination. According to recent, published analysis by a Liberian Professor of Political Science at a US University, the Liberian Political Economy is dominated and controlled by the few members of the nation’s political, ruling class, a majority of which were and are dual citizens. The Liberian Political Economy, the Professor wrote, bears responsibility for the massive exodus of Liberians, who abandoned the Republic into foreign lands and became naturalized citizens.
From their entrenched domination and control of the nation’s economy, dual citizens “earn” fabulous incomes in Liberia with which they bought/buy homes and maintained/maintain families in these, their second homes of foreign countries. They, also, maintain fabulous bank accounts in and make periodic trips to these foreign countries. According to reports, almost all revenue-generating, state enterprise presidents and vice presidents; managing directors and deputies; members of their boards and chairpersons; ministers and deputies of major ministries; “financially-lucrative” agencies of government, etc., etc. are dens for dual citizens.
4. Nation’s Economic Planners
The fiscal and monetary planning agencies – the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Liberia – of our government know the economic answers or solutions to the poor, devastating performance of the nation’s economy – the “whys” and “hows” it can be fixed. But, apparently, these agencies are at logger-heads!
They know that one of our major problems is our excessive demand for imports, foreign-made goods and services, including our staples, rice and cooking oil, etc., without introduction of policy plans for export production, the supply-side. Besides, the Executive Governor of the Central Bank is now a national politician with campaign trips throughout the country, while the “economy crumbles” (New Democrat, June 18, 2014) for want of monetary policy application to “fix” the economy.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minster (fiscal policy), the “new sheriff in town” promised a vigorous tax collection to boost the economy months ago. If successful, although it did not, the collection would have gone into the hands of Liberian consumers to purchase more and more of imported goods and services. This approach would continue to exacerbate demand for foreign currency and, thereby, depreciate the value of the Liberian dollar, the nation’s “terms of trade”, balance of trade, etc., according to the CBL.
Answers to or solutions of these economic problems are not easy to come by, given our socio-cultural, traditional approaches and economic history. It will require dedication, commitment and, above all, patriotism. The President of the nation should and must put her feet down on these critical issues of the economy, because the bucks stop at her desk – of rewards and criticisms/blames.